The fourth perek of Massekhet Bava Batra begins on today’s daf. Perek HaMokher et HaBayit focuses on how to interpret agreements involving real estate sales. It is clear that when two parties sign a detailed contract in which the owner agrees to sell and the buyer agrees to purchase a particular house or piece of land, they can write in any conditions or specifics that they please, and the agreement is valid. The Mishnayot of this perek deal with situations where agreements are made using less specific terms. How should the general statements be understood?
While there are many questions about the details of such agreements, the overarching question that is discussed is how we are to interpret the intention of the seller. Does the original owner sell be-ayin yafah or be-ayin ra’ah? That is to say, should we assume that the owner is generous with his intentions when he sells, or should we assume that he is stingy in his intent? Will there be differences between the attitude of a seller and someone who is giving land away as a present?
The first Mishna teaches that when someone sells a house without clarifying what is included in the sale, we assume that he does not include the gallery (an extension built above or alongside the main building) – according to the Gemara if it is at least four cubits wide, which is seen as a separate space – nor the area in the back of the house, which serves as a storage area or even as an area for coats and clothing. In both of these cases this ruling is true even if these areas are within the walls of the house, since a house is interpreted as being solely the area that is ordinary living-space. Once they are used for other purposes, they are no longer in the category of the “house” that was sold.